Lia Van Leer.
(photo credit: DR)
Lia van Leer, who founded the cinematheques in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv, as well as the Jerusalem Film Festival, was driven to create these national treasures out of her deep love for movies.
As a tribute to van Leer, who passed away on March 13 at age 90, the Jerusalem Cinematheque is showing her favorite films throughout the month, in a program called Farewell to Lia.
One of the wonderful aspects of her personality that is reflected in this specific program and the programs at the cinematheques in general was the depth and breadth of her love for movies. She loved classics and was also excited by the work of new, young directors, and the movies in Farewell to Lia demonstrate this.
One-time Jerusalem Film Festival guest Marcello Mastroianni stars in Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, the semi-autobiographical story of a brilliant, charming but somewhat self-indulgent director, who takes refuge in increasingly elaborate fantasies as he balances the many women in his life with work on his new film. It will play on May 4 at 6:30 p.m.
Another former film festival guest, Jeanne Moreau, who attended the first festival, plays the maddeningly alluring Catherine in Francois Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962). All I can say is that if you’ve never seen this classic on the big screen, run, don’t walk to the Jerusalem Cinematheque on May 5 at 9:30 p.m. Set in the early 20th century, it’s a classic love triangle, about a woman who is way ahead of her time and drives a wedge between two friends in Bohemian Paris. But this description doesn’t begin to do justice to the energy, intensity and beauty of the film.
The eight-hour epic version of Tolstoy’s literary epic, War and Peace (1966), directed by Sergey Bondarchuk, will be presented over the course of two evenings, on May 6 at 6 p.m. and on May 7 at 6:15 p.m. Connoisseurs consider this the finest adaptation of the novel, far superior to the 1950s Hollywood version.
Holly Hunter plays a muter pianist in 1850s New Zealand in Jane Campion’s haunting 1993 film, The Piano. Both Hunter and her co-star, then 11-year-old Anna Paquin (who recently starred in the True Blood HBO series), won Oscars, and Harvey Keitel also starred as a local man who falls for Hunter’s character.
It is playing May 9 at 4:30 p.m.
The Joseph von Sternberg movie The Blue Angel (1930), stars a young Marlene Dietrich in the iconic role of Lola Lola, a cabaret performer who torments a repressed schoolteacher (Emil Jannings). It’s a heartbreaking story and Dietrich is unforgettable. Kurt Gerron, a German-Jewish actor who was killed in Auschwitz, appears as a magician.
When he was at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, he was forced to direct a Nazi propaganda short, The Fuhrer Donates a City to the Jews. The Blue Angel will be shown on May 10 at 6 p.m.
The late Israeli director/producer Rafi Bukai’s 1986 Avanti Popolo is the sole Israeli film on this list. It tells the story of two Egyptian soldiers trying to make their way home after the end of the Six-Day War. It will be shown on May 11 at 7 p.m.
Lia had a special fondness for movies that were joyful, and Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 Strictly Ballroom, a romance about two Australian ballroom dancers, fits that bill. It will be shown on May 12 at 6:30 p.m.
The director’s cut of Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore’s affectionate look at how a director fell in love with movies, will be shown on May 16 at 4 p.m.
The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece about a knight (Max von Sydow), who battles with death through a chess game to save the lives of a young family, is being shown on May 22 at 2:30 p.m.
Lia’s one foray into actual film producing (although she encouraged and nurtured the careers of many Israeli directors) was Chris Marker’s 1960 documentary Description of a Struggle, an acclaimed documentary about Israel. It was co-produced by Lia’s husband, Wim van Leer. It will be shown on May 24 at 7 p.m.
Theo Angelopoulos was a frequent guest of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, and his 1984 film Voyage to Cythera, about an aging Greek Communist’s return home after many years in the Soviet Union, will be screened on May 27 at 7 p.m.
When asked to name the film she loved best, would often mention Marcel Carne’s Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), the romantic drama of a theatrical troupe, written by Jacques Prevert and starring Arletty and Jean-Louis Barrault. It is showing on May 29 at 2 p.m.
I hope this wonderful idea of creating a program of some of Lia’s best-loved films becomes an annual feature of the cinematheque’s programs.
For more information, visit the Jerusalem Cinematheque website at http://www.jer-cin.org.il/